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I haven't read the books, but I just started watching the Wheel of Time TV show on Amazon Prime, and I note that they have "Questioners", whose entire job, as far as I can tell, is to root out hidden Aes Sedai. But Aes Sedai are sworn never to lie. So it seems like rooting them out would be really, really easy.

Eg. "Are you an Aes Sedai?" or "Please say that this apple is blue"

In the books, is there a reason questioners don't just do this to find them?


EDIT: What I'm getting from the answers is that the white cloaks' (incl. "questioners") official mission is to hunt out darkfriends, not Aes Sedai. Some stupider white cloaks might believe that all Aes Sedai are black ajah (corrupted Aes Sedai darkfriends who can lie), so they in effect don't really believe that Aes Sedai can't lie. The ones who know better aren't trying to hunt down all Aes Sedai anyway and don't want to start a war with the white tower so they're not going to go after someone just for being an Aes Sedai.

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    Aes Sedai "To speak no word that is not true". That isn't quite the same as saying they can't lie, they can tell the technical truth and still be deceitful. Nov 22 at 19:56
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    @PearsonArtPhoto "Are you Aes Sedai? Say yes or no, or we will kill you," seems kind of simple, and iron clad, and thus the answers below need to explain it better
    – Andrey
    Nov 22 at 21:20
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    All whitecloaks consider all Aes Sedai (as well as all other channellers, for that matter) to be Darkfriends. This belief is not restricted to "Some stupider white cloaks". See wot.fandom.com/wiki/Children_of_the_Light#Ideology. I can't imagine any Whitecloak trusting an Aes Sedai to be unable to lie, especially considering that everybody else sees Aes Sedai as capable of deception in spite of the Three Oaths.
    – straycat
    Nov 22 at 22:38
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There is a fundamentally incorrect assumption with your question, “—…and I note that they have "Questioners", whose entire job, as far as I can tell, is to root out hidden Aes Sedai. But Aes Sedai are sworn never to lie… In the books, is there a reason questioners don't just do this to find them?

The job of the “Questioners,” formally known as the Hand of Light “inquisitor” sect are part of the Children of Light organization which has made its job to root out Darkfriends — humans who have been tempted with promises of immortality and power by the Dark One, or by other Darkfriends, into serving the Shadow. The “Questioners” are led by the High Inquisitor, and seek to secure confessions of alleged Darkfriends primarily through brutal torture. The sticking point with your question is that the Children of Light view all Aes Sedai as Darkfriends; this belief then is basis for your question whether the point is get all Aes Sedai as opposed to get Darkfriends. Out-of-universe, and unfortunately for innocent Aes Sedai, they are wrong in their belief, and this conflict serves as part of the plot narrative of the Wheel of Time saga.

Darkfriends can especially include Aes Sedai. Aes Sedai who are Darkfriends are members of the Black Ajah, a secret Ajah, consisting of Darkfriend Aes Sedai who masquerade as sisters of other Ajahs and who have forsaken their Three Oaths in order to serve the Dark One. The Questioners haven’t bought into such a distinction, however.

Because Black Ajah lie, the Hand of Light (“Questioners”) take special interest in interrogating Aes Sedai of any Ajah, on the possibility they may be Black Ajah. This inquisition of the Aes Sedai also serves the Questioners’ belief that all Aes Sedai are Darkfriends because their brutal methods generally yield confessions (then death), or death regardless of whether the victim was a Darkfriend or not.

The Hand of Light is an allegorical representation of Spanish Inquisitors, and the brutal methods of interrogation.

In a Q/A chat, Robert Jordan has confirmed all of this that the Whitecloaks started as a religious sect, evolved into a military organization in the War of the Hundred Years, who exhibit a touch of the Spanish Inquisition:

WOOD SUN And how about the Whitecloaks? I mean they look like some sort of religious sect.

ROBERT JORDAN Which?

QUESTION (two girls in unison) The Whitecloaks!

ROBERT JORDAN The Whitecloaks? Well, they're meant to look as a religious sect. They began as, an ascetic organization dedicated to preaching against Darkfriends, trying to convince people by example that they should not become Darkfriends. And during the War of the Hundred Years they became a military organization. They are patterned on the Teutonic Knights, a touch of the German SS, and...

WOOD SUN [interrupts] And the Spanish Inquisition?

ROBERT JORDAN A touch of the Spanish Inquisition. (laughter) They are in short anyone who believes that they know the Truth—the Truth with a capital T. They know the Truth so well, and its so clear to them that if you don't believe that truth, then it becomes obvious that you are evil.

The Eye of the World quickly sets this tone, and Chapters 29 and 30 are especially notable for the “good cop, bad cop” routine of Whitecloaks Bornhald and Byar, which is actually “bad cop, worse cop.” Bornhald states his belief that Egwene and Perrin might be lead away from the Shadow and brought back to the light; or Egwene, at least. For Perrin, who killed two of the Children of the Light in his rage over Hopper’s death, he says there can only be one fate:

a gibbet.

Neither Bornhald nor Byar have proof of any of the characters being Darkfriends, but in case of Children of Light, it’s guilty until proven innocent — a belief that falls particularly hard on Aes Sedai.

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    Funny enough, a real Aes Sedai could never confess to being a dark friend under torture
    – Andrey
    Nov 22 at 21:22
  • “Is it an Aes Sedai?” youtu.be/zrzMhU_4m-g Nov 22 at 21:25
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Getting a straight answer out of an Aes Sedai is very much like getting one out of a modern politician :) They are very good at dodging the topic or twisting the words - a recurring thing throughout the books. But to those who know what to look for, it would rather be the ageless features of an Aes Sedai.

I haven't seen this show and I don't know how close to canon it is, but I assume that you are referring to the organization called Children of the Light - "the White Cloaks", who are rather similar to the Inquisition in middle-ages - except they don't actually have any legal jurisdiction in most parts of the world (and are generally disliked by the common man).

The Children of the Light have very diverse influence throughout the world. In some lands like Caemlyn - where the books start, they have quite limited influence and can't really do much in the open against Aes Sedai since that nation is on friendly terms with the White Tower.

In the lands in the south and west, Aes Sedai don't hold as much influence and the Children of the Light would be more confident with accusations, particularly in their home nation Amadicia, which would be the most dangerous land for Aes Sedai to visit.

At any rate, being an Aes Sedai isn't a crime and the Children aren't actively searching for them as such. Senior members of that organization would recognize the ageless faces and wouldn't need to ask questions.

Also overall, the White Tower is a much more powerful organization than the Children of the Light, so the latter is by no means in a position to root out the former even if they wanted to.

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  • I guess I misunderstood the purpose of the questioner. However, while you can certainly dodge implicit questions or doublespeak on your own terms, if someone asks you a yes-or-no question and you fail to say "no" or asks you to "say these exact words" and you don't, it's pretty obvious.
    – dspyz
    Nov 22 at 20:56
  • @dspyz It's basically just a more politically correct title than torturer. They aren't normally questioning Aes Sedai as such, but anyone accused. wot.fandom.com/wiki/Hand_of_the_Light
    – Amarth
    Nov 22 at 21:25
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I don't think this is ever mentioned in the books explicitly, but here is how I understood it.

The easy answer could be, they just don't know. Moiraine only really tells Egwene because she is trying to recruit her. How much Aes Sedai advertise themselves, how much they like to be shrouded in mystery, and how much the White Cloaks would listen to that is up to the reader.

The harder answer: The White Cloaks exist to hunt evil. This evil comes in two flavors, Dark Friends or Dark spawn. The White Cloaks want to place Aes Sedai witches into one of those categories. Imagining then that they have a code that they must follow, is not very compatible with their belief structure.

You can also see from the show the White Cloaks don't consider Aes Sedai 100% evil. The refer Moiraine to go see one about her wound. What it seems like really happens is every time they find one in a situation where they can question her, they convince themselves that the one they found is a Dark Friend.

Spoilers to support that more from much later in the book series.

Dark friend Aes Sedai known as the Black Ajah can lie. The Inquisitors might know this. So if she can lie this only more means she has to burn. Finding an Aes Sedai who can't lie, even to save her life, might then mean she can't be a Dark Friend. This would put them in a trap where they can't burn her.

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    I faintly recall something about White Cloak doctrine stating that all Aes Sedai are to be considered Dark Friends, so they don't believe in Black Ajah. I can't find a source for it though. Or maybe this was just rhetoric from some particular fanatic branch like the Bornhalds/Byar characters.
    – Amarth
    Nov 22 at 19:05

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